Much as I enjoy a good documentary, in the past few years I have struggled with them as I’ve felt manipulated by a number which others have rated really highly (Stories We Tell and Mistaken For Strangers to name two).
Asif Kapadia and his team seem to have found a way around (most of) this for me, as in both this film and Senna, he tells his story using original archive footage, avoiding the intrusion of talking heads and editorial questioning.
Clearly the editing can still be manipulative, but the way Kapadia puts things together, I can live with that.
What’s striking about Amy Winehouse’s story is that, even from a young age she is clearly a troubled and vulnerable soul who needs a firm guiding hand which she herself admits she didn’t get.
As her fame (and wealth) grows, self-serving individuals appear and make decisions for her which seem to largely revolve around her income stream (which they can now tap in to), and it’s difficult to see how they were doing this in her best interest.
We know how it all ends for Amy, and so it’s heart-breaking to see her demise described and documented from the various points of view of her friends and family.
The thing I struggled with most was the amount of paparazzi footage used – they clearly added to her troubles, we know that, but watching those sections left me feeling more than a little uncomfortable, and wondering why those around Amy didn’t do more to shield her from them. It also made me wonder if there is any ounce of humanity in a person who would push others out of the way to take a photo of a vulnerable, mentally ill young woman when she is clearly suffering.